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Welsh: Dinbych-y-pysgod
The harbour, Tenby - geograph.org.uk - 1016019.jpg
The harbour and old town
 Tenby shown within Pembrokeshire
Population 4,696 (2011 census)[1]
OS grid reference SN129007
Principal area Pembrokeshire
Ceremonial county Dyfed
Country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town TENBY
Postcode district SA70
Dialling code 01834
Police Dyfed-Powys
Fire Mid and West Wales
Ambulance Welsh
EU Parliament Wales
UK Parliament Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire
List of places

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Tenby (Welsh: Dinbych-y-pysgod, meaning fortlet of the fish) is a walled seaside town in Pembrokeshire, south Wales, on the western side of Carmarthen Bay.

Notable features of Tenby include 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of sandy beaches; the 13th century medieval town walls, including the Five Arches barbican gatehouse; the 15th century St. Mary's Church; the Tudor Merchant's House (National Trust); Tenby Museum and Art Gallery; and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, part of Wales' only coastal National Park. Boats sail from Tenby's harbour to the offshore monastic Caldey Island, while St Catherine's Island is a tidal island. The town is served by Tenby railway station.


With its strategic position on the far west coast of the British Isles, and a natural sheltered harbour from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea, Tenby was a natural settlement point.

The earliest reference to a settlement at Tenby is in "Etmic Dinbych", a poem probably of the 9th century, preserved in the 14th century Book of Taliesin.[2] At this point the settlement was probably a hill fort, the mercantile nature of the settlement possibly developing under Hiberno-Norse influence.

The blue lines show where the walls round Tenby were most likely placed, the red lines mark the wall sections that are still standing
Five Arches Gate, part of the old castle walls of Tenby
Tenby, 1832

After the Norman conquest of England, the lands came under the control of the Earls of Pembroke who strengthened the easy to defend but hard to attack hill fort on Castle Hill by building the first stone walled castle. This enabled the town to grow as a seaport but the need for additional defences was shown when it was attacked by Welsh forces in 1187 and again in 1260 by Llewelyn the Great.[3] The town walls were built by William de Valence, 1st Earl of Pembroke, in the late 13th century.

This spurred the landowners to develop extensive city walls, enclosing a large part of the settlement into what is now termed the "old town." Although the actual wooden gates into Tenby no longer exist, the Five Arches at the edge of old town give an insight into what the merchants would have marvelled at as they entered.[4]

During the Wars of the Roses Henry Tudor, the future King Henry VII of England, sheltered within Tenby before sailing into exile in 1471. Consequently, in the Late Middle Ages, Tenby was awarded various royal grants which financed the maintenance and improvement of the town walls and the enclosure of the harbour. The harbour during this period became a busy and important national port. Originally based on fish trading, traders sailed along the coast to Bristol and Ireland and further afield to France, Spain and Portugal. Exports from Tenby included wool, skins, canvas, coal, iron and oil; while in 1566 Portuguese seamen landed the first oranges to be brought to Wales.[4]


Two key events caused the town to quickly and permanently decline in importance. Firstly, in the English Civil War, the town declared for Parliament and resisted two attempts by Charles Gerard, 1st Earl of Macclesfield to capture it for the King, Charles I. In 1648, the Royalists captured the castle for ten weeks before surrendering to Colonel Thomas Horton,[3] who welcomed Oliver Cromwell to the town shortly afterwards.[4] Secondly, in 1650, a plague epidemic killed half its population.

Resultantly bereft of trade, the town was abandoned by the merchants, and slid inexorably into decay and ruin. By the end of the 18th century, the visiting John Wesley noted how: "Two-thirds of the old town is in ruins or has entirely vanished. Pigs roam among the abandoned houses and Tenby presents a dismal spectacle."[5]

Victorian revival

St Mary's Street, a typical old town street in Tenby
A view of Tenby baths as depicted by in a 1825 illustration

With the Napoleonic wars restricting rich tourists from visiting the spa resorts in Europe, the need for home-based sea bathing grew. In 1802 locally resident merchant banker and politician Sir William Paxton bought his first property in the old town. From this point onwards he invested heavily in the town, with the full approval of the town council. Engaging the team who had built his home at Middleton Hall, engineer James Grier and architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell were briefed to create a "fashionable bathing establishment suitable for the highest society." His baths came into operation in July 1806 and, after acquiring the Globe Inn, transformed it into "a most lofty, elegant and convenient style" to lodge the more elegant visitors to his baths. Cottages were erected adjoining the baths, and livery stables with an adjoining coach house.

View upwards to the promenade, showing the 1814 arched road built during the town's revival by Sir William Paxton

In 1814 a road built on arches overlooking the harbour was built at Paxton's full expense. He later got passed a Bill in Parliament to enable fresh water to be piped through the town. Despite these accomplishments, his 1809 theatre was closed in 1818 due to lack of patronage.[5]

Paxton also took in "tour" developments in the area, as required by rich Victorian tourists. This included the discovery of a chalybeate spring in his own park at Middleton Hall, and coaching inns from Swansea to Narberth. He also built Paxton's Tower, in memorial to Lord Nelson whom he had met in 1802 when mayor of Carmarthen.[5] Paxton's efforts to revive the town succeeded, and even when victory at the Battle of Trafalgar reopened Europe, the growth of Victorian Tenby was inevitable. Through both the Georgian and Victorian eras Tenby was renowned as a health resort and centre for botanical and geological study.[6] With many features of the town being constructed to provide areas for healthy seaside walks, due to the walkways being built to accommodate Victorian nannies pushing prams, many of the beaches today still retain good disabled access. In 1856 writer Mary Ann Evans (pen-name George Eliot) accompanied George Henry Lewes to Tenby to gather materials for his work Seaside Studies published in 1858.

The old 1905 (near, cream & red) and new 2008 (far, silver) RNLI Lifeboat Stations

In 1852, the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Royal Benevolent Society deployed a lifeboat to the town, taken over in 1854 by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. This led in 1905 to the building of the first slip-way equipped lifeboat station, which was replaced in 2008.

Tenby railway station was opened by the Pembroke and Tenby Railway as the terminus of the branch from the Pembroke direction in 1863,[7] with the section eastwards to join the main line at Whitland following three years later.

In 1867, the construction of the Palmerston Fort on St Catherine's Island began. It was built to protect the coastline from a potential landing force.[8]


Colour and variety of the shops of Tenby

Modern Tenby provides many attractions and activities for both local residents and out of season tourists to enjoy. There are more than 200 listed buildings and other structures in and around Tenby.[9]

The old town castle walls still survive, as does the Victorian revival architecture, which has been retained and maintained, often in a high-light orientated pastel colour scheme, making the town more French Riviera-esque in nature and feel.

The economy is still highly based around tourism, supported by the provision of a range of craft, art and local goods stores, which has been created by a thriving artist community.

After growing up in Tenby and naming themselves after a promenade bordering the north beach, local hip hop collective 'North Walk' have recently made ground in and around Pembrokeshire. Their first song Out With You was uploaded to YouTube on 9 December 2011.[citation needed]


Front page of the earliest surviving copy of the Welsh newspaper The Tenby Observer; 21 July 1854

There are four schools in the Tenby schools area.

  • Three primary schools:
    • Tenby Infants VC School
    • Tenby Juniors Community School
    • St. Teilo's RC School
  • One secondary school :

Most pupils from St. Teilo's School and Tenby Junior School are automatically enrolled in the Greenhill School, but the parents can enrol them into a different school. Also Tenby Infants School and Tenby Junior School include Welsh units for Welsh language speaking pupils. Most of those pupils go on to Ysgol y Preseli, (A Welsh speaking secondary school) in Crymych.


As with the rest of Wales and the wider United Kingdom, Tenby experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters, and often high winds. Due to its coastal south west position, it is one of the sunnier locations in Wales.

Climate data for Tenby 5m asl, 1971-2000
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 8.5
Average low °C (°F) 3.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 115.4
Mean monthly sunshine hours 58.0 75.4 115.6 184.8 218.2 205.8 218.9 200.6 149.1 106.0 71.7 49.9 1,654
Source: Met Office[10]


Long sandy beaches are the staple draw of Tenby to tourists

Tenby is an exceptionally busy British holiday resort in the summer. The relatively unspoilt beaches and historic town walls make it a notable seaside resort. Most shops, pubs and restaurants in Tenby are specifically marketed to tourists. There are coastal boat trips to offshore islands and the town is a base for exploration of Pembrokeshire.

The annual Ironman Wales competition extends the visitor season into September.


The A478 road accesses the town, connecting to the M4 Motorway via the A48 some 40 miles (64 km) away.

Tenby railway station is maintained and served by Arriva Trains Wales, with regular hourly services to Swansea and onwards to London Paddington via First Great Western. During peak season, trains run direct from Paddington to Tenby.

The nearest airport is Cardiff International, reached via either road or rail.


Tenby Golf Course

Tenby is home to Tenby United RFC, a rugby union club that has existed in the town in one form or another since 1876 and is a member of the Welsh Rugby Union.

Tenby is also home to the Tenby Aces Cycling Club, which has expanded quickly to become the largest club in south Pembrokeshire.

Tenby Golf Course provides an 18-hole links golf challenge.

Notable people

Charles Norris (etcher)
Robert Recorde mathematician

See also


  1. "2 Ward populations 2011". Retrieved 21 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Pryce, Huw, ed. (1998). "Literacy in Medieval Celtic Societies". Cambridge University Press. p. 29. ISBN 9780521570398. Missing or empty |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Tenby Castle
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "tenby". penmar-tenby.co.uk. Retrieved 16 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Sir William Paxton". kuiters.org. Retrieved 16 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Victorian History Tenby
  7. History of Pembrokeshire Railways Pembrokeshire Virtual Museum; Retrieved 2009-03-03
  8. "St Catherine's Island". Retrieved 13 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "British Listed Buildings: Tenby". Retrieved 3 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Tenby 1971-2000 averages". Met Office. Retrieved 25 Sep 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links